A federal judge has issued an injunction that restricts the Biden administration’s communication with social media companies, a decision lauded by Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) as a major victory for free speech.
Chief U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty, a Trump appointee, handed down the ruling in response to legal action brought against the White House by Schmitt when he served as Missouri’s attorney general before his election to the Senate last year.
Senator Schmitt alleged that officials within the administration had attempted to use their influence over these platforms to suppress dissenting opinions and stifle free speech.
The court agreed with him and barred government officials from communicating with social media firms on matters of “censorship or viewpoint discrimination” until further notice.
In a tweet following the ruling, Senator Schmitt wrote: “White House officials, CDC & others are stopped cold…Their view of ‘misinformation’ isn’t an excuse to censor…This is the most important free speech case in a generation. Freedom is on the march!” He went on to call it a “big win for first amendment rights this Independence Day.”
NEW: In the case I filed when I was Missouri's Attorney General – Missouri v. Biden – the federal court just granted a preliminary injunction PREVENTING the federal government from colluding with social media companies to censor speech.
Happy 4th of July! pic.twitter.com/N9IhG1anyk
— Senator Eric Schmitt (@SenEricSchmitt) July 4, 2023
🚨BREAKING: A Federal Judge in Missouri v. Biden just granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the FBI, DOJ, DHS & other agencies from working with Big Tech to censor on social media
Big win for the First Amendment on this Independence Day🇺🇸
I’m proud to have led the fight. pic.twitter.com/59FzDVuI4f
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) July 4, 2023
There are some exceptions that Doughty allowed.
The Washington Post reported he will allow for government officials to have contact with social media companies to inform them of posts involving “criminal activity or criminal conspiracies,” “national security threats, extortion, or other threats,” and crimes related to U.S. elections.
Resist the Mainstream added:
Many expect the ruling to disrupt years of collaboration between tech companies and the government, especially in terms of addressing illegal activities and interference in elections.
The injunction applies to various executive agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, prohibiting them from pressuring social media platforms into removing, suppressing or reducing the visibility of content protected by the First Amendment.
In response to the lawsuit initiated by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Republican attorneys general argued that the frequent contact between social media companies and government entities violated First Amendment rights as well as raised antitrust issues and undermined Section 230 protections.
The New York Times reported that Judge Stanley Doughty, presiding over the injunction request, was known for making rulings in favor of conservative causes, which could potentially lead to an appeal of his ruling.
Following this legal action, Twitter released their “Twitter Files” which revealed regular contact between several federal agencies such as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security with the platform.
Moreover, it exposed demands for censoring content related to elections, Hunter Biden’s laptop and other topics leading up to the 2020 election.
Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Twitter have yet to release any official statements regarding this matter.